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Eye on Demand | April 25, 2017

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Apple TV 4 Review

Apple TV 4 Review

Review Overview

Value For Money
7
User Interface
8
Availability and Quality of Services
6
AirPlay and Additional Features
8
7.3

Smart DNSers Dream Box

Apple TV’s latest model may look just like the old puck after eating too many cheeseburgers, but packed inside the shiny plastic case is possibly the global television viewers dream machine. There still isn’t a perfect way to watch television from all around the world, but this little box has to be the closest to it we’ve seen!

Apple released their first incarnation as the iTV way back in 2006 (no doubt to ITV, the UK broadcaster’s dismay), long before most people knew what on-demand television really was, and it resembled nothing like the later Apple TV boxes that appeared from 2010 and onwards.

Even then, those later models (up to the ATV3) lacked an incredibly vital ingredient that other connected-TV manufacturers were providing – the 3rd party app store – which was seriously odd considering Apple effectively created the modern app store craze with the iPhone and iOS.

The Apple TV 4 is a tiny, black shiny box that you can place beside or behind your TV that will play Apple sourced content from the iTunes store, as well as free or subscription content from a wide range of streaming services such as the BBC, Hulu, Netflix and more.

So what sets the Apple TV 4 apart from the competition? For a start it is available almost everywhere in the world. The other two big names in streaming boxes (Amazon Fire TV and Roku) are only available in a very small range of countries.

Secondly, apps from multiple countries can easily be mixed onto the single hub. This means the BBC iPlayer from the UK can sit next to TenPlay from Australia, Hulu from the US or 3NOW from New Zealand. As long as you have a good Smart DNS provider that can unlock any geographic restrictions, the world of television is your oyster.

Believe you me, this is not such an insignificant advantage. While the Fire TV can also mix apps from more than one country, the number of countries is restricted to just four and requires somewhat of a fiddly process, while Roku boxes are restricted to only one region at a time.

If global TV access is what you are after, you can also easily add Smart DNS directly into the Apple TV, and keeping things simple and easy on the network configuration front always brings a smile to my face.

But the Apple TV 4 isn’t just great for global television viewers as even those who are only concerned about content from their own region will have a lot of reasons to consider this great box over the competition. So let’s have a good look at it.

Remote side


  • Physical

    While the Apple TV is no longer the slender slab found in versions 2 and 3, it doesn’t mean it’s terribly ugly either. At 98mm x 98mm, the new box is 10mm higher than the older ATV 2&3 models. That extra centimetre also adds an additional 155grams making it 425g in weight.

    ATV4Dim

    There’s not a lot to see on this box, which is why for the most part you may as well keep it hidden. The front panel shows a bright single white LED when powered up or if the remote is in use, but that really is about it, unless you want to see the Apple logo on the top.

    As the remote works via Bluetooth, you can hide this little guy away, with some people choosing an optional 3rd party mount that can hang it from the rear of your television.

    AFTV4Ports

    All ports are located at the rear, with a power socket (Standard figure-8 or “shaver” cord) which incidentally is the same as what the ATV3 uses, an HDMI port to go to your TV, an Ethernet port for those who want a wired Internet connection, and finally a USB-C port for developers.

    If you’re looking for the optical audio found on earlier models, sadly you’ll out of luck. In what we think is a really poor decision by Apple, they have decided that the optical audio out should be removed. Although many TVs will provide this, along with HDMI pass-through on amplifiers, I used this socket on the older ATV 3 for audio-only airplaying from mobile apps such as Spotify and the BBC Radio. With this port gone, I’ve been forced to buy a Chromecast Audio to facilitate my music streaming, as the last thing I want on while listening to music, is our television.

    4KAs far as performance goes, all the extra juice under the hood makes this little box a relatively good gaming machine, although it still wouldn’t stand up against an Xbox One or PlayStation 4. That said, in this particular review, we’re concentrating on what the box really was built for – video streaming.

    That said, what caused serious disappointment amongst many pixel peepers was the lack of 4K (ultra HD) output, especially as both Roku and Amazon updated their flagship devices to include this. The best this new Apple TV can muster is 1080p, which will almost certainly suffice for most people.

    To be honest, this is a bit surprising, as it really wouldn’t have hurt to add 4K support. But Apple’s decision is most likely based on the lack of 4K content. Let’s be honest here, despite Netflix and Amazon offering some 4K titles, the number in both their libraries is still incredibly small. Couple that with the lack of 4K TVs in people’s homes, the inability of most viewer’s broadband to sustain reliable 4K streams, along with the fact no major broadcaster yet offers 4K delivery via on-demand and we can see why Apple has omitted it for now. Still, it would have been nice.

    It’s worth pointing out that the Apple TV 4 supports both 50Hz and 60Hz outputs as well, which is a good thing since it is available all around the world, something which Roku tends to neglect.

    ATVTop

    Hardware Pros:

    • Small, attractive and stylish box.
    • Can easily hide as it doesn’t need line of sight.
    • Power supply built in, so any shaver cable should work fine.
    • Decent grunt under the hood.
    • Excellent remote.
    • 32GB or 64GB options.

    Hardware Cons:

    • No audio out.
    • No external storage.
    • USB port is only used for developer purposes.
    • Bluetooth Keyboards aren’t supported.

     

    Specifications:

    Video Out: HDMI 1.4.

    Wifi: 802.11ac Wi?Fi with MIMO.

    Ethernet: 10/100BASE-T Ethernet.

    Bluetooth: Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology.

    Remote: via Wifi and IR receiver.

    Processor: A8 chip with 64-bit architecture.

    Video Formats: H.264 video up to 1080p, 60 frames per second, High or Main Profile level 4.2 or lower. H.264 Baseline Profile level 3.0 or lower with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps per channel, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats. MPEG-4 video up to 2.5 Mbps, 640 by 480 pixels, 30 frames per second, Simple Profile with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats.

    Audio Formats: HE-AAC (V1), AAC (16 to 320 Kbps), protected AAC (from iTunes Store), MP3 (16 to 320 Kbps), MP3 VBR, Audible (formats 2, 3, and 4), Apple Lossless, AIFF, and WAV; Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital Plus 7.1.

    Photo Formats: JPEG, GIF, TIFF.

     

    In order to access global content on the Apple TV 4, we recommend one of the following Smart DNS Providers:

    Ad GetflixAd SDNSP

     

  • Remote

    We don’t usually reserve a dedicated tab especially for a device’s remote, but the Apple TV 4’s flicker is unique enough that it deserves a little extra attention.

    Remote front

    Apple completely changed their remote for the new Apple TV, adding a pile of new features including a Siri microphone, touchpad (to replace a standard D-pad), accelerometer & gyroscope for gaming, volume controls for your TV, Bluetooth support (so you don’t need line of sight) and an extra Home button, all of which really improve on the older remote.

    ATVSiriRemote2There are a lot of things that feel good about this remote, but it is far from perfect. For a start, I am surprised there is no backlit keys. This is a remote that lasts on a charge for months and can then be easily recharged by the same cable most owners will have already for their iPhones or iPads. It would have been so much more logical to have some form of backlit keys on this device.

    Secondly, the touchpad at the top is exactly the same size as the palmrest at the bottom, which means it is extremely easy to pick up the wrong way in a darkened room (another reason for backlit keys), and speaking of the touchpad, it does get grimy quite quickly, although it is reasonably easy to clean.

    But the biggest gripe I keep hearing is how long it takes to scroll back & forth on the alphabet strip when typing in passwords or search queries. This last part isn’t a problem if you own an iPhone as you can always make use of the Apple Remote App which also becomes useful whenever you need a virtual keyboard.

    Search

    But it’s really not all doom and gloom. I like the remote so much, I still prefer to use it over my Harmony for some reason (though if pressed, I can’t really explain why), and that trackpad really shows its strength when zipping around on a video’s timeline. There is no FFW or REW buttons, and you really don’t need them here, especially as single left/right clicks also hop backwards and forwards in 30 second increments.

    Remote Pros:

    • Bluetooth enabled (so no line of sight needed).
    • Includes touchpad.
    • Small, sleek and looks great.
    • Siri microphone built in.
    • Power lasts for months on single charge.
    • Easy to recharge via iPhone or iPad Lightning port cable (included).
    • Built-in accelerometer.
    • Built-in gyroscope.
    • Volume controls (can control TV volume).
    • Touchpad accelerated swiping: faster swipes results in faster on-screen scrolling.
    • Incredibly fast scrubbing on a video’s timeline (FFW & REW equivalent)

    Remote Cons:

    • Trackpad can get dirty after a short period of time.
    • Annoying way to scroll horizontally to enter text.
    • Can be difficult to tell what is up & down in the dark.
    • No backlighting.
    • No headphone socket.
    • Can fall asleep and needs a click to reactivate (but swiping on touch-pad won’t wake it).

     

    In order to access global content on the Apple TV 4, we recommend one of the following Smart DNS Providers:

    Ad GetflixAd SDNSP

  • 32GB or 64GB

    While there are two different Apple TV models available, the only difference between them is how much storage they provide and the price Apple charges.

    The 32GB model costs US$149, £129 or €179.

    The 64GB model costs US$199, £169 or €229.

    If price is an issue, the easiest way to decide which model to choose will come down to gaming. If you plan to use the Apple TV as a gaming machine then I’d recommend the 64GB model.

    However, if your primarily interests are for streaming television, my own experiences suggest the 32GB model will be more than enough. I’ve personally installed every major VOD app from Australia, Italy, the US & the UK, France, Germany, Scandinavia, Canada, South Africa, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and Ireland, and I can safely say that I still haven’t exceeded 3GB of usage.

    AppsStorage

     

    In order to access global content on the Apple TV 4, we recommend one of the following Smart DNS Providers:

    Ad GetflixAd SDNSP


  • Services

    Unlike the earlier Apple TV models, generation four provides access to a 3rd party app store. At the time of publication, it has to be said that the app store is quite small in comparison to that found on the Roku and Amazon Fire TV platforms. However, those devices have been available considerably longer than the ATV 4.

    While this means there are a number of important apps missing from the tvOS app store, it already has proven itself as one of the fastest growing.

    Also, unlike the Fire TV and Roku which are both only available in a very small limited number of countries, the Apple TV is available almost everywhere in the world. For this reason, we can’t list significant apps from every possible country, so we’ll concentrate below on apps from English speaking markets.

    United Kingdom

    BBC iPlayerBlank ButtonFREE: The world’s largest broadcaster offers a huge range of catch-up content for 30 days from airing, as well as live streams of all their channels. This is a incredible app that alone makes any streaming device worth the effort.

     

    TVPlayerBlank Button

    FREE + SUB: Whilst TVPlayer doesn’t belong to any broadcaster per se, this great free service offers a pile of live channels from the major UK broadcasters including the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and 5. A subscription service adds more channels like EuroSport.

     

    NowTV2Blank ButtonSUB: The UK’s premium pay-tv operator is present with their fantastic Now TV app, offering live and on-demand access to their Entertainment, Movies or Sports Passes.

     

     

    Australia

    ABC iViewBlank ButtonFREE: Australia’s public broadcaster. Modelled on the BBC, but a lot smaller. Just so happens to also produce some of the best Australian home-grown content.

     

    Plus7Blank Button

    FREE: Australia’s highest rated television network provides a reasonable library of their latest shows including Home & Away just after airing, along with some classic box sets.

     

    TenPlay ButtonBlank ButtonFREE: Australia’s Network Ten provides a wide range of content from their various broadcasting channels including Ten, Eleven and One.

     

     

    SBSBlank Button

    FREE: Possibly the best world movies and television service in the world, this app has a huge range of films and TV shows including many major releases. All in original language + English subtitles if needed.

     

    StanBlank ButtonSUB: Australia’s local competition to Netflix. Popular as an alternative library of movies and television series that compliments a Netflix subscription.

     

     

    Ireland

    iboxBlank ButtonSUB: While subscriptions start at €3 per month, this will get you live and catch-up content from all the main FTA Irish TV channels, plus a couple of UK ones. This is one of the best ways to watch live Irish television online.

     

     

    New Zealand

    3NowBlank ButtonFREE: New Zealand’s second largest broadcaster’s catch-up service provides both local and imported shows, and there are some real gems to be found here.

     

     

     

    United States

    HuluBlank ButtonSUB: Absolutely amazing service from the US which aggregates a whole pile of American networks into one hub offering the latest episodes of hugely popular shows, along with some fantastic movies.

     

    FoxNowBlank ButtonFREE (Sort of): America’s FOX network has a selection of content available for free for approx. 30 days after airing. Anything after that requires a traditional cable sub to access.

     

    WatchABCBlank ButtonFREE (Sort of): A Good range of shows are available on America’s ABC catch-up service, with selected content available free for approx 30 days, after which a cable contract is required.

     

     

    CBSBlank Button

    SUB: Once subscribed, access to a wide range of CBS’s content is available, including live streams if inside the US. Sadly CBS aren’t on Hulu.

     

     

    NBCBlank ButtonFREE (Sort of): Although not a giant library of NBC shows, this app contains many of the network’s biggest hits and specials available during a catch-up window of approx 30 days.

     

    PBSBlank ButtonFREE: America’s public broadcaster provides a good range of local productions as well as quality British imports. You’ll need to create a free account and select a local US region first though, but this is easy enough.

     

    A&EBlank ButtonFREE (Sort of): Despite being a basic cable channel in the US, A&E still offers a small selection of content for free, so worth adding to the list.

     

     

    HistoryBlank ButtonFREE (Sort of): While it has little to do with actual history these days, this A&E owned service offers a small range of shows for free without the need of a cable subscription.

     

    LifetimeBlank ButtonFREE (Sort of): Part of the A&E family, this channel focuses on their female audience offering a small range of titles for free if no US cable subscription is present.

     

     

    Global

    Netflix2Blank ButtonSUB: The world’s benchmark on-demand service is of course present with a rather excellent app. We like this for Smart DNS users as well, as it is really easy to switch regions, especially if you are using Getflix

    .

    ZattooBlank Button

    FREE + Sub: Similar to TVPlayer but as well as the UK Channels there are major German, Swiss, Austrian, French, Italian and Spanish ones. Free, but a subscription adds HD streams along with 7 day catch-up of all programs and recordings.

     

    CrackleBlank ButtonFREE: Crackle is like a free version of Netflix and run by Sony. Offering a large library of ad-funded movies and TV shows including some original content. Getflix offers a switch to select different libraries including Australia, US and Canada.

     

    In order to access global content on the Apple TV 4, we recommend one of the following Smart DNS Providers:

    Ad GetflixAd SDNSP


  • AirPlay

    The problem with an app store as new as the one on the Apple TV 4, is that there will always be many apps missing. While some broadcasters embrace the new world of on-demand delivery, there are a few out there that still haven’t quite got over the introduction of colour TV.

    For those who find some streaming services are a little slow on the tvOS development front, the chances are that they are available via iOS, and if they haven’t been operating out of a tree for the last four years or so, then they should also have AirPlay support.

    This means that services like All 4, Amazon Prime, ARD and ABC iView who don’t yet have a native Apple TV app can still be watched via AirPlay on an ATV4 via the mobile version. But unfortunately this doesn’t mean every broadcaster has embraced the wonders of this technology. Demand 5, TVNZ On Demand and ITV Hub are great examples of broadcaster’s whose CEO’s most likely still ride a horse to work every morning. (And no, no-one in their right mind would consider ITV’s implementation of AirPlay as an example of a supported service).

    AirPlay

    How it works

    AirPlay ButtonAt it’s best, AirPlay is incredibly easy to operate. When you’re in a fully supported app, a tiny AirPlay symbol like the one above will appear on the playback window. Tapping this will shift the video across to the main television via the Apple TV.

    AirPlay can be added to an app in three general ways:

    1. Full AirPlay Support: This is where the AirPlay button is accessible directly from the playback screen. The iPad or iPhone’s screen can switch off (saving power) or the mobile device can be used for other purposes (multitasking) and playback will not be affected on the destination TV.
    2. Partial AirPlay Support: This is where the developer has omitted a number of important features for undisclosed (and unfathomable) reasons. Often the AirPlay button is missing, the device won’t multitask (so you can’t use your phone for anything else), or the display can’t be switched off.
    3. Mirroring Support: Some broadcasters (We’re looking at you ITV) claim AIrPlay support, but only via Mirroring. The usability and quality of video during AirPlay mirroring is generally speaking so poor, it is not worth considering.

    When AirPlay is fully supported, there can be cases where it is so good, that it is actually the best way to go. For example, Zattoo via an iPad and AirPlay is so good, it is my preferred way to use it. Not only does the EPG work so well via the touch-screen on an iPad, Zattoo also employ full AirPlay support. Despite Zattoo offering a native ATV4 app, I’m still inclined to use it via an iPad and stream across to the TV with AirPlay as it is so much nicer to use this way.

     

    In order to access global content on the Apple TV 4, we recommend one of the following Smart DNS Providers:

    Ad GetflixAd SDNSP

  • User Interface

    When the Apple TV 4 launched, Tim Cook made a big deal over how revolutionary the new tvOS UI was, but in reality it is simply evolutionary. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and what Apple have put together has quite a lot of potential.

    Essentially, the new UI retains the same rectangular apps that the older Apple TVs sport, but in a bright background and with more flexibility. By this I mean their most important feature – the 3rd party app store. Apps of your choice can be easily installed, moved around or removed at will – at least for the most part, and those located at the top row may provide additional top-shelf visual features that for instance could show popular films in Netflix or current favourite channels in Zattoo.

    ATV4 topshelf

    As yet there are no folders, although that is reported to arrive with the Spring 9.2 update, which means things can get a little messy if you install a lot of apps. Scrolling through them is quick enough though, especially with the remote’s touchpad.

    This being Apple, they have added of course a few nice touches into the UI, which includes wobbly icons when you move over them (making it easier to see what app you are actually over) and instead of the static photos most other platforms use for a screensaver, Apple have opted instead for HD looping aerial movies in slow motion – which to be honest are really quite cool.

    ATV4 screensaver

    There is the promise of global search as well, but right now that is limited to a number of American apps including iTunes, HBO (Go & Now), Hulu, Netflix, PBS, PBS Kids, Fox Now, FX Now, Nat Geo, Watch ABC, Disney, Disney Jr, Disney XD & Showtime, as well as iTunes and Netflix in the other Siri-supported countries. Outside of the 8 supported Siri countries, a standard text search is all that’s possible.

    Tim Cook mentioned last year that an API will be created to allow any streaming service to be added into the global search results, and this has been stated as one reason the BBC pulled a U-turn and launched a native app so soon. However, that API has yet to surface.

    Unfortunately, the global search doesn’t seem to work with apps from multiple regions. At this stage at least, it will only pull results from supported apps within the currently set region. So even if you have PBS installed as shown below, if you have not set your ATV‘s region to the US, it will not return with a positive hit.

    SearchDA

    Configuration of the device is incredibly easy, especially if you have an iPhone. Once you unbox the ATV4 and fire it up for the first time, sit your iPhone on top or near the new Apple TV, and as long as Bluetooth is on and the network is the same, your iPhone will automatically teach the Apple TV what it needs to know to connect to your network and set itself up.

    Unfortunately, all your apps will need to be manually logged in, but if you use your iPhone’s Apple remote app, you can use the virtual keyboard to speed things up.

    Outside of that, the basic Settings screens are well laid out and intuitive enough that the average person shouldn’t find themselves too lost, and great news for Smart DNS users – you can configure the DNS entries directly on the device.

    ATV4 settings

     

    In order to access global content on the Apple TV 4, we recommend one of the following Smart DNS Providers:

    Ad GetflixAd SDNSP

  • Siri

    If you haven’t heard already, it is possible to talk to the Apple TV as well. This isn’t exactly new technology as it is has been available in Smart TVs, gaming consoles and competing STBs like the Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Android TV, but Apple finally came to the party.

    Siri

    Unfortunately it’s not the same for every user. At the time of publication, Siri was only available in the following countries and languages: English (Australia, Canada, UK, US), German (Germany), French (France), Spanish (Spain) and Japanese (Japan), although the language support should increase slightly with the upcoming tvOS 9.2 update.

    If you live in a region that doesn’t support Siri, you can easily give it a go by following the instructions below, but honestly, it’s not really worth the effort yet…

    1. Go to Settings >> General >> Language and Region format >> Language and change the language of your Apple TV to English.
    2. Then Settings >> Accounts >> iTunes and App Store >> Preferences >> Location and change your TV’s App Store location to any one of the eight countries that are supported by Siri (UK, US, Australia, Canada, Germany, France, Spain or Japan).
    3. Go to Settings >> Accounts >> iTunes and App Store and sign in with a US Apple ID. If you don’t have, create one by following this guide.
    4. Restart the Apple TV.
    5. Go to Settings >> General >> Siri and switch on Siri.

    The greatest potential of Siri will be when global search is truly universal. This hasn’t happened yet, but Apple have said it is an upcoming feature. When that happens, a user should simply be able to ask Siri in “conversational terms” where to find movies and TV shows either by name, genre or a myriad of other ways, and results will be returned from most streaming apps.

    As it is today, you can ask things like “I want to watch Star Wars” or “Show me some horror movies” and even filter down by “only the good ones” or “only the ones from the 50s”.

    Siri2

    It doesn’t work as easily as the Xbox however, as Siri is not always on. You’ll have to press and hold the Siri button on the remote and then start speaking, and some of the things you can ask are really pointless.

    For example, Apple made a big deal that you could simply say “what did he say” during a movie, and it would automatically skip back 15 seconds. But I found it much easier to just click the left side of the touchpad to do the same.

    Also, try asking what is the weather and many other things outside the US and you may be bitterly disappointed at how US-centric Apple can be.

    Still, I loved some things like asking Siri to “skip ahead [forward] x minutes [seconds or hours]” or “go back [rewind] x minutes [seconds or hours]”, and this really is incredibly quick.

    Siri Pros:

    • Does a reasonable job at understanding what you want to say.
    • Has huge potential when global search rolls out completely.
    • Will search over multiple services (see above).
    • Very useful for searching for content.
    • The fastest way to hop x minutes back & forth in a movie.

    Siri Cons:

    • Not always on (requires holding Siri button on remote).
    • Very few countries supported.
    • True global search has yet to be implemented.
    • Outside of search & hopping, is little more than a novelty.

     

    In order to access global content on the Apple TV 4, we recommend one of the following Smart DNS Providers:

    Ad GetflixAd SDNSP


  • Mixing Apps from different countries onto the single Hub

    If I were to be asked what is the single best feature of the Apple TV 4, it wouldn’t be the evolutionary user interface, nor Siri integration, or even the nice wobbly bits when you hover over an app.

    It would be the ease of mixing apps from multiple countries onto the single hub.

    You’ll be surprised how difficult this used to be. Only a couple of years ago, pretty much every streaming set-top-box or Smart TV restricted access to one region at a time – generally speaking, the users geographic location. This meant if you were in the US and wanted UK apps, you had to switch the device manually over to the other country, often deleting all your apps in the process. Some devices still act like this (Roku for instance), but recently there has been a change.

    Newer devices such as the Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 all allow mixing of apps from more than one region onto a single hub. But none of these do it as well and as easily as the Apple TV 4.

    Due to a combination of near complete global availability (the Apple TV 4 can be bought just about anywhere), the huge range of various nation’s apps that are available and the ease and speed at which users can switch between countries to check for new apps, makes the Apple TV 4 the global television viewer’s dream machine.

    Apps

    It really is possible to mix apps from all over the world onto a single hub, meaning you can have TV channels and catch-up services from all around the world sitting next to each other. Imagine the viewing potential when you realise you’ll have television from every corner of the globe available on your home TV!

    In order to achieve this, there are two simple things that need to be done:

    1] First, you need an iTunes account from each country that you want to install apps from. If you don’t already have these, it’s a relatively easy one-off process to create each one by simply following the steps here.

    2] You’ll need a good Smart DNS provider to unblock the regional restrictions on the various apps that you want to use.

    All you have to do is the above two steps, and you can start watching the BBC iPlayer, PBS, TenPlay, 3Now or many more television services from wherever you are in the world for free. They will even unblock geographic restrictions with subscription services like Hulu, Now TV or HBO Now if you subscribe to them.

    There are a lot of Smart DNS providers around, but we recommend the following due to their wide-ranging support for Apple TV 4 apps from around the world. I personally use Getflix, as I love their iOS, Android and Mac apps that make it so easy to switch between regions.

    Ad GetflixAd SDNSP

     

     

     

     

     

    For more details, check out our Apple TV 4 guide for Smart DNS users here.

    Global Pros:

    • Can configure Smart DNS directly onto the box.
    • Can mix apps easily onto the single hub.
    • Incredibly easy to switch to a new region to see if new apps are available.
    • Apps from all regions will automatically update.
    • Apps from almost every country in the world are available.
    • Widest choice of TV apps from around the world.
    • No complicated hack required to add new apps.

    Global Cons:

    • At this stage, Netflix is quite fiddly to switch between regions (via Smart DNS).
    • As the tvOS store is new, many major broadcaster’s apps are still missing.

  • Tips and Tricks
    Configure via your iPhone and save time!

    Why go through all the hassle of manually setting up your Apple TV 4, when you can get your phone to do all the grunt work for you. Simply keep your iPhone (with iOS9.1 or later and Bluetooth enabled) sitting on or near your Apple TV 4 once you fire it up, follow the on-screen instructions, and your iPhone will perform the bulk of your configuration, including setting up your WiFi access and Apple ID.

    Go Global

    Seriously, this is one of the best things about the Apple TV 4. You can easily install apps from multiple countries onto the single hub, and as long as you have a cheap and easy to set up Smart DNS service that unblocks geographic restrictions, you theoretically can have every television channel on the planet (well, at least those with Apple TV apps and supported by your Smart DNS provider). At the time of press, some great broadcasters worth considering to add were the BBC iPlayer (UK), TenPlay, Plus7 and SBS On Demand (from Australia), 3NOW (NZ) and most US networks. That alone is a lot of free television!

    Reorganise your Apps

    Don’t like the order your apps are in? No worries, just long-press on the remote’s touchpad, and you can shift your apps around much like you can on an iPhone or iPad. Pressing Play/Pause at this point will also remove them.

    Playback Options

    When playing back videos, try swiping down from on the touchpad to activate details of the current show, actions such as channel previews in Zattoo or audio options including language settings or selecting AirPlay speakers, as well as quiet-mode for nighttime viewing are all possible.

    Managing Space

    If you want to keep track of how much space you are using, head to General >> Manage Storage. Alternatively you can use third party apps such as tvStorageInfo to keep a track of how much space you are using.

    Switching between or closing Apps

    If you want to quickly flip between open apps, then double-click the Home button where you can swipe through them much as you can on an iPhone or iPad. In a similar way, you can close an app by flicking upwards on the touchpad.

    Quick jump back Home

    Alternatively, double clicking the Menu button will take you straight back to the home page in one leap. Much quicker if you are deep within an app.

     

    Remote Tips and Tricks
    Touchpad:
    • You can rearrange apps by hovering over them and then holding down the touchpad until the icon starts to jiggle. Press again to finish once apps are rearranged.
    • Hovering over any letter on the keyboard and holding down the touchpad will bring up a contextual menu that includes uppercase letters, accents and a backspace key.
    • Hovering over a song and holding down the touchpad will bring up a contextual menu that includes various Apple Music options.
    Buttons
    • Pressing the Menu button once will go back.
    • Pressing the Menu button twice quickly from the Home screen will start the screensaver.
    • Press and hold the Menu and Home buttons simultaneously together will restart the Apple TV (once you let go).
    • A single press of the Home button will return to the home screen from anywhere.
    • Pressing the Home button twice quickly will bring up the App Switcher, which displays all currently open apps. Swipe up on the Siri Remote’s touchpad to force close an app.
    • Press the Home button three times quickly to access VoiceOver.
    • Holding down the Home button will place the Apple TV in Sleep mode.
    • Hold down the Siri button to use Siri.
    • Press the Siri button once and wait to view a list of commands you can ask Siri.
    • Press the Play/Pause button once to change the keyboard between uppercase and lowercase.
    • Press the Play/Pause button once to delete an app in wiggle mode, which requires hovering over an app and holding down the touch surface until the icon starts to jiggle.
    • Hold down the Play/Pause button for 5-7 seconds to return to the Apple Music app.

     

    In order to access global content on the Apple TV 4, we recommend one of the following Smart DNS Providers:

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  • Compared To…

    If you live in the UK, Canada, Germany or US, you’ll find quite a reasonable choice of alternatives out there.

    The UK for instance has the Roku box which has a brilliant range of UK apps from the BBC, ITV Hub, All 4, Demand 5, Now TV, Amazon Prime and Netflix on board, while the £15 Now TV box which looks identical has the same but omits Netflix and Prime (or any Now TV competitor). But you can’t mix apps from other countries on the Roku or Now TV boxes, and if you use Smart DNS, you need a router where you can configure this on.

    Roku 1 2 3

    The Amazon Fire TV is a great box for UK users as well, since it also has the BBC , ITV Hub, All 4, Demand 5, Netflix and Prime, but also adds UKTV Play and TVPlayer. It lacks Now TV and some of the older devices currently also lack All 4 and ITV Hub, but those should arrive soon. The great thing about the Fire TV is that you can mix UK, US and DE apps as well, although it is a lot fiddlier to do so than on the ATV 4.

    Amazon Fire TV

    American users may also be temped by both the above mentioned platforms, and for the same reason of excellent app support, as well as similar Smart DNS restrictions, although the US lacks anything resembling the amazing Now TV box in price.

    Chromecast is a tempting option for those on a budget, and it’s available in a reasonable number of countries, but it is incredibly fiddly to use and not ideal for Smart DNS users unless you like to tinkle with tech.

    ChromecNew

    The Android TV platform has huge potential, but broadcasters outside of the US seem to shun it at the moment. To be honest, I have no idea why, as many Smart TV brands are sold with Android TV baked in, and in more countries than Roku and the Fire TV can be found. It even comes with built-in Chromecast as well and doesn’t need the technical knowledge and fiddly work-arounds that a Chromecast stick requires for global access. However,  the simple fact is though, that if you live outside the US & Germany, the chances are there won’t be much available in the way of local content.

    NexusTV

    This is why the Apple TV 4 is such an attractive option. It may cost more than most streaming devices, and right now, it may have fewer apps available. But the chances are, it can be bought wherever you live, you can easily add apps from multiple countries by simply adding Smart DNS, and while it may not have the biggest app count just yet, it almost certainly will grow quickly.

     

     

  • Conclusion

    Starting at US$149 (£129 or €179) for the 32GB model, and ending at US$199, (£169 or €229) for the 64GB version, the Apple TV 4 sits halfway between cheaper connected-tv boxes and more expensive game consoles.

    Unlike the Now TV box or Chromecast, the Apple TV 4 is not a cheap device to just buy on a whim, and that high price tag doesn’t yet give it as many apps as some competing boxes, nor a UI so revolutionary that it could justify the price.

    Yet, Apple’s latest set-top-box excites me far more than any competing platform and has in my opinion more potential as well.

    While it lacks many apps, it should be pointed out that this is mainly because it is still a very new device and apps from major broadcasters and streaming services are appearing on it faster than any other smart tv platform.

    I’ve also been absolutely blown away by its potential for global viewing options, and in this way it is a Smart DNS dream machine. If you live in a country that doesn’t have many decent streaming options, grabbing this box along with a Smart DNS subscription and following this guide will get you more TV than you could possibly dream of.

    Pros:

    • Great build quality.
    • Ease of mixing apps from multiple regions.
    • Smart DNS dream machine.
    • Available globally.
    • More potential for global streaming apps than any other platform.
    • Great UI.
    • Excellent remote.
    • Voice support via Siri.

    Cons:

    • Many UK and Australian apps still missing.
    • Expensive.
    • Remote has no backlighting.
    • No audio-out.

    Log:

    29.01.2016: Review published 7.3 – Smart DNSers Dream Box.

    01.02.2016: Added CBS All Access to the services tab.

    09.02.2016: Updated list of global search supported services.

    19.02.2016: Updated list of global search supported services.

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    (Note: Some selected images used in this review are property of Apple)

     

    In order to access global content on the Apple TV 4, we recommend one of the following Smart DNS Providers:

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